CMO Adam Levine on the supposed death of AORs: We’re alive and integrated
“The ‘agency of record’ concept is just about dead, and so are the retainers that funded them,” begins an article in AdAge published online on Wednesday, June 17. A reader at a full-service creative agency like McKinney is apt first to think of Monty Python and insist, “I’m not quite dead yet!” and, second, to update their LinkedIn profile. Just in case.
AdAge guest columnist Michael Farmer, CEO of Farmer & Co., goes on to give two further predictions in “The Death of the Agency of Record Is Near”: Agencies will cut costs and capabilities, while advertisers will move toward scope of work. We asked our CMO Adam Levine if he agrees. He does not.
Adam contends that agencies are doing more project work, but he is quick to point out that the opposite is happening in media. “AORs are thriving in media, and media agencies are starting to hire traditional agencies roles like planners and creative directors,” he explains. “Content creation is happening under the guise of media.” He predicts that this will result in a weak stewardship of the creative idea and an understandable focus on media, which furthers the notion of disintegration.
Basically, what some say has been happening to creatively led all-service agencies is going to start happening to media agencies. The pendulum is going to swing back either when the media companies get too big or when agencies stop working closely with their media partners.
Deutsch North American CEO Mike Sheldon agrees. At the 4A’s Transformation Conference in Austin this spring, Adweek reported him saying, “…the fact that we don’t spend a lot of time sometimes with our media partners on behalf of our clients is criminal. This era of specialization—I get that. We’re all supposed to be specialists. But I think it can all be done under one roof.”
Adam further explained that, in fact, agencies like McKinney, “who never disintegrated, who have developed strong media planning departments with decades of experience,” will be increasingly attractive to brands who want to work with those closer to the creative idea. “While the media reviews appear to be never-ending, integrated shops will continue to thrive and be even more primed when the pendulum changes direction.”
And so we celebrate, close the LinkedIn tab in our browsers and proclaim, “It’s just a flesh wound.”